[This article is based on research and discussions with attornies-at-law.]
As soon as someone you know dies, all hell can ‘pop loose,’ as even persons who had nothing to do with the deceased during their lifetime, suddenly wants to claim ‘ded lef’.
In Jamaica ‘ded lef’ describes personal property eg money in the bank, clothes, jewelery, stocks, car, and real property eg. house and land.
Its more likely than not, that, you will need an attorney and attornies, even from legal aid is not cheap. So why not take care of some non-attorney duties before approaching one, to keep your budget under check. In fact some attornies do send you to do some of the groundwork before they take care of the legally technical aspects.
When someone dies here a few things to do before you can get the attorney to go after the bigger belongings left by the decedent.
Pre probate to do list
1. Check by advertisement to probe whether the decedent died indebted to anyone and obtain real proof from any persons who claim to be debtors. If you do not do this, the attorney who assist you will charge to do so
2. Check if there is a Will
Check to see if any prior Will has been recorded at the Island Record Office (which is part of the Registrar General’s Department).
The contents of the Will should be made known to all the beneficiaries almost immediately. The executor should have a list of the testator/decedent’s beneficiaries.
3. Get a list of all property owned – real and personal estate
– It is important that you do not assume ownership of anything until either process is complete or you can be ordered to return the same.
4. Check if any of the following circumstances apply to you, before you consider getting help to apply for the total estate through probate or administration
– where the person dies and doesn’t leave a will;
– there are surviving family members that are possible beneficiaries;
– where the person dies but doesn’t have any beneficiaries to inherit his property; or
– where the appointed executors are deceased.
. Obtain at least 3 original certificates directly from the Registrar General’s Department for
– death of decedent, marriage of decedent
– birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage certificates of named beneficiaries of decedent
Get certified copies as well.
Certified death certificate may need to be filed with the Administrator General’s department.NOTE: If you do not do it, the attorney will charge the fees to do it
5. Check the value of the estate, and thus the stamp for the filing fee required.
STAMP FILING FEES Where the net value of the estate does not exceed $10 million — $5,000
• For estate with a net value above $20 million and below $30 million —$10,000
• For estate with a net value above $30 million and below $40 million —$15,000
• For estate with a net value above $40 million — $25,000
6. Gather original Will
7. Get all certificates to verify the relationship
Common-law relationships will need to be proven, via a Declaration from the Family Court (of the Supreme Court). If you were legally married to someone else, your rights will be nullified, as to prove common-law marriage you must have lived as husband and wife and cohabitated, a minimum of five years prior to the common-law spouse’s death.
Obtain a Declaration from the Family Court of the Supreme Court if your fathers name is missing from your birth certificate. To do this make an application and take along a relative at least ten years older than you.
8. Pay up all taxes
9. Get a good probate attorney-at-law: Referrals from a reliable source is great, but checking through research is also good. Attorney fees are between to 8 per cent of the actual value of the estate.
Fees for Probate
This article done by senior journalist is not meant as actual professional legal advise.